Amazon Fire 7 Review: It’s your knockabout tablet
The Amazon Fire line of tablets is among the more popular non-iPad lines of tablets out there. The Fire 7 is the least expensive in Amazon’s lineup, and it shows. You could point to just about any feature on this tablet and criticize that it needs to be better. Processor? Definitely. Screen? For sure! Touch sensitivity? Yes! About the only things that this tablet nails right out of the gate are respectable battery life and the fact that it uses USB-C for charging and data. Everything else is a compromise.
But this Amazon Fire 7 tablet is $60. You are not supposed to care about it. It’s supposed to sit on a coffee table and just be there whenever you want to read or watch a movie. It is, for lack of a better term, a disposable tablet. It’s the tablet you give to your kids and tell them to go have fun.
This is not supposed to be a computer replacement, and it’s not really a Kindle replacement either (though it can be). It’s also not meant to replace any of the other best Android tablets out there. This tablet is for people who think they might want a tablet, and they shop at Amazon all the time. At $60, this is a good deal. If you can get it for less during any one of Amazon’s periodic sales (such as Prime Day, for example), it’s a steal.
Amazon Fire 7: Specifications
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About this review: I received an Amazon Fire 7 tablet from Amazon to review. Amazon did not have any input into the content of this review.
Amazon Fire 7: Pricing and Availability
The Amazon Fire 7 is available in the US for the following prices:
- Lockscreen Ad-supported:
- 16GB: $60
- 32GB: $80
- Without lockscreen ads:
- 16GB: $75
- 32GB: $95
Amazon Fire 7: Hardware and Design
- The build is cheap plastic with a bad screen.
- It’s light enough to be a good reader.
The hardware on the Fire 7 tablet is about as basic as it gets. The body of the tablet is made of plastic with Amazon branding (the trademark smile) across the back. It comes in Black, Denim, and Rose. The device I reviewed was Denim. When held in landscape orientation, you have a single upward-firing speaker on the top left. On the right, there’s a power button, volume rocker, USB-C port, and headphone jack. On the bottom is the microUSB slot that can be accessed using a fingernail.
All told, this is not impressive hardware. The screen in particular is bad. Maxing out at 300 nits, it’s not watchable in daylight. Even my sun porch was too bright for it a lot of the time. The contrast ratio just isn’t there to give you a good separation between lights and darks. So if there’s a bright scene in your movie, you’ll be able to see it well, but once things get dark, you lose all detail.
More than that though, the screen is just pretty low-res, weighing in at just 600 x 1024 pixels and 170ppi. You’re not going to get Blu-Ray quality out of the screen and even some of the UI comes off as grainy. I could remind you here that this tablet costs sixty dollars, but that would be repeating myself to the point of being rude, so fortunately for you, I won’t.
Speaking of reading, at 282 grams, this tablet is heavier than the average phone and the Kindle Paperwhite by about one-third. I didn’t find any discomfort during prolonged reading sessions. Sure, lighter is better, but overall, I think Amazon kept this device light enough to be a sensible e-reader as well as a video player.
Amazon Fire 7: Software
- Amazon has really tightened up its UI for the better.
- It is built to serve you Amazon content first and foremost.
On the software side, FireOS is about as basic as operating systems come. Fire OS 126.96.36.199 is based on Android 11, so you have the familiar back, home, and multitasking buttons across the bottom of the UI. The rest of the UI is designed to help you do one thing – consume content, preferably Amazon content – with one exception which we’ll talk about in a moment.
The home screen is divided into three basic sections: For You, Home, and Library. The For You page gives you an overview of your recent apps, weather, and of course curated content that’s just for you. You can see what’s included in Kindle Unlimited, Prime Video, and app suggestions from the Appstore. You can also minimally customize the For You page by moving categories up or down. Your Library is simply your collection of apps, books, and videos that you own or are on your wishlist.
Home is a combination of the two. At the top, there’s a widget that feeds you recommended content and allows you to pick up where you left off in an app. Scroll down and you’ll see the apps you have installed, along with other suggestions like Amazon Shopping and Amazon Kindle. Before you ask, no you cannot delete any of them except The Washington Post.
So if there was ever any doubt as to what this tablet is for, put it to rest. This is a tablet designed to serve you Amazon content. It can be content you already own or will soon own, but either way, Amazon’s getting paid. That’s why Amazon can sell a tablet for $60.
I like that Amazon has tightened up its UI recently. In the past, there were far more tabs that you could/had to scroll between including apps, movies, books, Amazon shopping, and more. At the time it was something different, and because of that, it was refreshing. But the novelty grew old fast. I definitely prefer this version of Fire OS.
As for the rest of the software, the Amazon Appstore inspired a whole other editorial on how bad it is. The TL;DR version is that the Appstore is great as long as you are doing what this tablet is meant to do. You can stream content like Netflix, Paramount+, and of course Amazon Prime Video, or you can connect to social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. That’s about it. There are a lot of games in the Appstore but they’re limited to idle tappers and “line three of the same color balls in a row” types of games.
If you temper your expectations as to what this tablet can do, you’ll be fine. If you go into this thinking you’re going to play a first-person shooter, think again.
Amazon Fire 7: Cameras
- They are not good at anything except video calls.
- The front and rear are the same sensors and they’re carried over from the previous generation.
- Don’t use the rear camera. Seriously, just don’t.
The front-facing and rear-facing cameras are the same 2MP sensors, which is to say they’re unimpressive. They’re also the same 2MP sensors from the last generation, so cost savings for the win! Fortunately, 2MP is fine when it comes to video streaming with Zoom. The call quality is quite clear as is the picture. Of course, that will be dependent on good lighting, so maybe pick up some ring lights and you’ll be all good.
The camera on the back is not something you should ever use, but that’s because it’s a tablet, not because the camera is bad. Also, the camera is bad. All the same, I swallowed my pride briefly to take a few shots.
Not surprisingly, photos from the camera come out flat and utterly lacking detail. I limited my photo session to daylight, with a couple of macro shots thrown in. So really, the camera is just good enough for video conferencing, and that video conferencing is limited to Zoom and Alexa.
Amazon Fire 7: Miscellaneous notes
- Battery life is good.
- Audio is not quite there, but there are a lot of options.
- Performance is on par with a $60 tablet.
Battery and charging
Battery life is good on the tablet. The Fire 7 tablet comes with a 3,750mAh battery. Because of the display, I used this tablet at max brightness 100% of the time. Still, the tablet achieved 10 hours and 26 minutes of video streaming before throwing in the towel. When I threw in a bit of gaming, that dropped to around eight hours. The 5W charger that comes in the box takes just over four hours to recharge fully. I was able to shorten that time by using a 65W charger, but only reduced charge time by about half.
The sound coming from the one up-firing speaker is not loud enough for video playback, but gaming sounds can generate adequate volume. The tablet can connect to Bluetooth 5.0 LE should you decide to go that route. There’s also a headphone jack for those who prefer a wired solution.
The Fire 7 gets a Geekbench score of 166/525 (single-core/multi-core). Neither of those are good, but you don’t need a lot of horsepower for social media and streaming. Idle tap games run perfectly. Games with a lot of animations and graphics can give you problems, but of course, your mileage may vary.
The build of the tablet is a little on the small side for my meat-puppet hands. As such, when playing games in landscape orientation, it was common to accidentally bump the power button and turn off the screen. The game resumed just fine when I turned it back on, but it happened often enough to be annoying.
In the past, Amazon has made a big deal about the durability of this tablet. I didn’t put it through any specific testing for that trait, but the tablet did survive a tumble or two off the table during my testing. I’ve seen Fire tablets survive falls down the stairs and I don’t have any doubts that this tablet probably would too. This is not a recommendation that you drop your tablet intentionally. But the thing is, even if you drop it and it breaks, it’s $60, so it’s not generally considered a bank breaker.
Official Fire 7 case
My review unit also came along with an official case which adds to the tablet’s ruggedness. The case is plastic with a cloth covering the outside and a soft-touch covering on the inside. The cover is bisected diagonally so a flap can flip out to prop up the tablet either vertically or horizontally. That propping up didn’t work so well – the tablet was always unstable. You’ll probably find a better third-party case for your Fire 7.
Should you buy the Amazon Fire 7?
As this review notes in the plentiful, the Amazon Fire 7 isn’t the best tablet that money can buy. What makes this tablet unique is that it unapologetically aims for a small price tag. Practically everything about this tablet can be better, but that would be missing the forest for the trees. It’s not meant to replace your computer, your phone, and not even your iPad.
With Prime Day deals, one can snag this one for even lower than its starting price of $60, at which point it becomes a bit of a no-brainer to keep one in the house just because. Keep one on the kitchen table, one on the coffee table next to the sofa, one in the garage, and hand one to each of your kids — that’s the kind of adoption that Amazon is aiming for with the Fire 7. So that the next time you use a display, you have a higher chance of using an allied Amazon service, and to Amazon, that’s a win.